Magazine article Industrial Management

A New Foundation in Business Culture: Managerial Coaching

Magazine article Industrial Management

A New Foundation in Business Culture: Managerial Coaching

Article excerpt

It is clear that American business culture is in the middle of a change. We are rethinking our managerial practices and redesigning our firms. The "traditional" is being replaced and something "new" is emerging. Change is the order of the day.


Before describing one of the new foundations developing in business culture, it will be useful to explore the traditional for comparison. In traditional hierarchical management, the manager is the focal point. Basically, everyone is around to do the manager's work. The name of the game is do what the manager tells you to do, and the way he tells you to do it. This relationship could be described as a triangle with the manager at the top and everyone else below.

Some of the beliefs that go with this design are the following:

* Knowledge flows up. The higher up you are in the organization, the more you are supposed to know. * Money flows up. * Power flows up. * The goal is to become a manager. To remain at a lower level is demeaning and has negative connotations. * The higher up you are, the "better" you are. Better is meant here in a superior sense so that managers are literally ones superior in this model. * B.S. flows down. Whatever problems are at the top are passed down to those below for solution, fault or blame.

Many of these beliefs are unconscious and unexamined. They automatically come with the territory of our work lives and culture. This hierarchical managerial schema is a historical model. It was developed during the beginning of the industrial revolution when people from the country, as they sought work in the factories, needed to be organized in an efficient way. The work was routine and fairly simple. Hence, the system Figure 1 represents was born. (Figure 1 omitted) And, in the last 150 years, it has developed relatively little. Over time, and particularly in the past 20 years, work life and business culture have changed dramatically. Workers are better educated and much more sophisticated. Routine tasks are being robotized, automated and computerized. Jobs are now much more complex and require more from both workers and management. The globalization of business has made it much more competitive, requiring more from those involved.

It is clear that many of these beliefs ought to be and are being seriously questioned. It is clear that management does not have all the knowledge, nor are they intrinsically better than anyone else. All of us know people who could climb the corporate ranks, yet have no interest. There is nothing intrinsically "better" about being in management or climbing the corporate ladder. Furthermore, many specialists in corporations are being paid more than managers; so even the cash flow, in some instances, is being redirected.


The past is not working for American business. There is something missing. Let us now switch gears and start exploring a new model. This model is based on a sports metaphor. What is interesting about this metaphor is the major underpinnings that support it. However, this model is not being presented because it is the right one or the truth. It does have some notions which are worthwhile for business to explore. I call it the coaching model.

Coaching revolves around a game. Games tend to be seen as fun, and in their best light, not tied to survival. While one can be passionate about being committed to playing, one never has to. Most work, however, is held as tied to survival (i.e. "it is a dog-eat-dog world"). In the traditional way of management, we certainly work because we have to, while in sports, one plays because he/she wants to.

Both players and coaches are vital to the outcome of the game. Coaches are a resource to the players. A serious solo player would not think of not having a coach. Serious teams, of course, have a coach; and, all serious athletes, even if they are at the top of their game, will have a coach.

Why? …

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